Elisaveta Mavrodieva

Final Project Statement: 

Structural Sin

This series is an allegory for the suffering our society is cast into as a product of unjust social and economic structures. Here, the body is depicted as both an agent and a victim of the contemporary world. I am relying on the ancient biblical theme of the seven deadly sins and looking to masters such as Brugel, Dante and Lorenzetti for references.

We experience the world through our bodies, our bodies bear marks of our experience, they maintain the consequences of our day to day lives. Bodies both process the world, and reflect it. Of course, I believe people are made up of more than just physical flesh, however, the ideology of consumerism frequently reduces it to such. Here, I am tackling the ideas of power and sensation by looking at human physicality and painting the suffering of human bodies as victims of our neoliberal reality of consumerism.

Lust: Through the endless demands of the growing porn industry, actors are frequently pressured to engage in more and more radical, obscene acts as well as modify their bodies to keep up with the desires of consumers.

Gluttony: The fast food industry, which frequently targets people from lower socio-economic statuses due to the cheap prices, makes extreme portions of food from cheap, low-quality ingredients. The food is oversaturated with fats and sugars, the frequent consumption of which leads to obesity. Over one-third of America’s adults are obese.

Greed: Today, eight individuals own as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population. Our value is often socially determined by the amount of expensive things we possess. This leads society to prioritize producing and obtaining physical things over human labor conditions and the environment. The capital that is produced goes to the very rich, while the workers are paid miniscule wages and frequently work in hazardous conditions.

Envy: The media’s oversaturation of our society with models featuring unrealistic beauty standards often set unhealthy expectations for girls’ bodies which lead to self-loathing and eating disorders. Growing up, I would often hear my friends compare themselves to photoshopped models, saying “if only I looked like her…”

Wrath: Success in our society is determined by a narrow combination of traits, such as competition, aggression, and lack of empathy, which are traditionally considered “masculine.” This combination frequently leads to the suppression of human qualities and pain, which often results in anger and violence.

Pride: Our society is obsessed with physical qualities. Many people go to extreme lengths to be able to sculpt their body and be seen as beautiful and attractive. Extreme bodybuilding is an example of this. Many men inject harmful steroids to achieve their desired look.

Sloth: Due to extreme stress and isolation, people turn to substance abuse. Doctors in America frequently overprescribe opiates as pain medication, which leads to dependence and frequently downspirals into drug abuse. Currently, America is facing its largest heroin epidemic of all time.

Artist’s Statement

The purpose of my work is to express the pain of human experience through the language of painting. Through the act of painting, I engage with emotion and expression. To express the humanity of another on canvass takes immense concentration on the facial and bodily features of the person being depicted. However, the process must be balanced with the freedom and looseness of painting in order to engage intimately with the array of emotions being conveyed. I prefer to work predominantly in oil because it allows me to balance the focus on individual detail, as well to play with the natural behavior and characteristics of the paint. Painting in itself is a deeply empathetic experience for me, because in order to convey human experience I must engage deeply and strenuously with my subjects both visually and emotionally, frequently for hours. My source materials stem mostly from photographs, life observations and sketches. Recently,  I have been working from documentary stills. I enjoy learning about the lives of various people and pay homage to the difficulties they face. Much of people’s pain is a result of unjust social, political and economic structures. By empathetically engaging with the individuals I paint, I cast criticism on the structures in the contemporary world. I draw inspiration from artists such as Marlene Dumas, Lucian Freud, Kaye Donachie and Edvard Munch.

Mid-Term Project: Sloth

Inspired by the workshop that was presented to us by Irene and Valeria, I decided to make a contemporary recreation of an archaic Christian theme of the Seven Deadly Sins in the form of a series of oil paintings. Being an Anthropology major I tend to have a somewhat different approach in analyzing human behavior — both good and bad, and in my studies of globalization and society I have encountered many examples of structural violence, as well as larger social forces influencing human behaviour in negative ways. Therefore, the plan for my project will be to illustrate various types of human behaviour that is influenced largely through structural forces — such as the free-market economy system which is highly pervasive and affects billions of people on a personal, social and structural level. However, I will illustrate this behaviour through the lens of the Seven Deadly Sins. Eventually, I would like to end with a series of seven. This will be my first time integrating my anthropology background with my artistic visions.

For the midterm project, have created a work on the theme of  “Sloth.” I took a completely different take on the traditional understanding of this sin. I believe that people are overwhelmed and overworked in our society, due to the pressures of competition and the narrow understandings of “success” in our society.  I don’t think people get the wholesome rest that is daily required for both mental and physical health. Instead, people relax and unwind from stress and exhaustion by going out, drinking, and partying. From my observations of party culture, I have gotten the impression that often, it is an attempt to relax, unwind and forget oneself and all worries. This is a fairly common sentiment amongst people my age. For this reason, I recreated a scene from a club, in oil, in attempt to portray the exhaustion and intoxication experienced in this type of setting. People of my generation frequently attend clubs, parties and bars in order to destress. Drug use and drinking is used as a replacement for sleep and meditation. It becomes an overwhelming cycle of exhaustion and intoxication that leads to a stupor which hinders work, happiness and even personal relationships.


Intro Unit Project: Multi-sensory Materiality

Intro Unit Project: Tempo Zulu

My Tempo Zulu stone was a very simple one. However, I intended for it to incorporate both collective and individual memory and experience as well as refer back to the history and traditions of Siena.

“Remember?” is intended to trigger the most important memories and experiences from the intimate and personal lives on onlookers. By referencing important past occurrences it almost suggests time-travel through one’s life, identity and things of significance. Similarly, it can be read as something much more simple, such as small, everyday reminder to complete tasks, to call friends, to stay on top of one’s life. This to me is an important thing because I am very forgetful, and find that small reminders I set for myself are often what keep my life glued together.

However, a meaning of deeper importance is also meant to be incorporated into this piece. Siena’s history revolves around past greatness, historical victories and economic success. In fact, the Palio itself, the tradition that keeps Siena together, has originally been inspired by a past battle, which now only lives in memories and traditions of the city. The Palio is such a powerful and significant tradition that it maintains the identity and spirit of Sienese citizens to this day. It prevents the city from being completely drowned by Italian tourism, and by this, allows a living, breathing and remembering identity of Siena.

Intro Unit Project: Points of Entry

I used mixed media to convey an understanding of space and time, that tremendously influenced my perspective of this project. I began my work by composing a quick narrative on the spot, drawing a sort of personality portrait of my old and seemingly useless gate. The materials I used were varied, I started with a sketch that I then transferred on paper. I attempted to have the materials symbolize the layers on time, as well as my personality portrait of the gate, which I wrote in my handwriting on the back of the images, which I strung together with a single blue string. This was also a symbol of passing time. The top image in this collage was a painting of a full moon, which hung heavily in the air when I first encountered the gate.


Elisaveta Mavrodieva, USA/Russia

Bio statement:

I am a Visual Arts and Anthropology double major at College of the Holy Cross. I was born in Volgograd Russia, but immigrated to the U.S. at 6 years old, and lived in Florida until deciding to study in Massachusetts. Creating art allows me to share intimate emotions as well as grand, imagined worlds with my larger audience in non-invasive, aesthetically expressive way. However, I try to guide my creation of paintings and drawings in a direction beyond just emotional representation. It is very important for me to master technique, especially in the visual representation of the human figure. Through art, I attempt to direct my personal experiences and emotions in a direction that makes a bold and beautiful statement, which is both abstract and elusive, yet, intimate and familiar.  Painting allows me the potential to address issues such as loneliness, intimacy and depression from a perspective of a woman living in the 21st century. Similarly,  I sometimes address political and social issues with my work. I try to use my personal identity and experience to engage with themes that I know well, and that may or may not be familiar to my audience. I choose to work with elusive, intimate themes because these ideas and concepts are simply beyond what humans can measure and understand in a rational way.